Picture courtesy of hotindienews.com
The campaign just past brought out a new round of craziness about bringing vigilante justice to the border. It also pointed up changing attitudes among the remaining sane populace. The much touted “War on Drugs” that has accomplished less than nothing has lost favor with the public it was foisted on.
Changing attitudes have allowed public officials to speak out about legalizing marijuana and politicians who took up that note of sane policy in campaigns have vaulted into office in more advanced centers.
The prospects for reforming drug policy have never been so good. The persistent failure and negative consequences of drug war policies, combined with budgetary woes and generational change, are mainstreaming reformist ideas once considered taboo.
Nowhere is this convergence more evident than with respect to marijuana. In 1969, when Gallup first asked Americans if they support legalizing marijuana use, 12 percent were in favor. Support hovered in the mid-20s for many years, then started drifting upward—from 25 percent in 1995 to 36 percent in 2005. In October, at the height of the landmark campaign for legalization in California, the latest Gallup poll found 46 percent in favor nationally, with 50 percent opposed. Prop 19 garnered 46.5 percent of the vote—and roughly a quarter of Californians who voted against it said they favored legalization but were hesitant to vote yes for one reason or another.
Incoming Vermont Governor Pete Shumlin introduced a marijuana decriminalization bill when he was in the state legislature and favors harm-reduction policies with respect to other drugs. Rhode Island’s new governor, Lincoln Chafee, seems to get it too. Prospects for drug policy reform will be better in Connecticut without Republican Governor Jodi Rell, who vetoed medical marijuana legislation and blocked other drug policy reforms, and in California without Arnold Schwarzenegger, who opposed most pragmatic efforts to reduce the state’s prison population and vetoed numerous harm-reduction bills. The overall state prison population declined for the first time in thirty-eight years in 2009, a result in good part of an emerging bipartisan consensus that nearly bankrupt state governments can no longer afford to keep locking up ever more people, especially for nonviolent drug offenses.
Fortuitously, financial hard times have given a stark outline to a major offense of the unsuccessful “War on Drugs”. Its costs are ruinous. The use of police forces to carry out a useless criminalization of the needy has not diminished crime, but unleashed it on the taxpayers burdened with it.
Growing hemp for domestic use, also slapped down in the craziness of ostensible Drug Wars, would be a boon to our growing drylands in the West.
As realization has spread in the general public that making war on plant life is ludicrous and doomed, the right wing insistence that we have to keep throwing money at the problem grows ever more obviously wrong. By legalizing and taxing the trade, we would not only eliminate gangs and pushers, but secure a needed source of revenue.
Sanity is breaking out all over.